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Literature Reviews

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations such as books, articles, and documents with a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph. The annotation is generally about 150 words, or 4 to 6 sentences. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

Key points to cover:

  • Main focus or purpose of the work
  • Usefulness of the citation to your research topic
  • Special features of the work that were unique or helpful
  • Background and credibility of the author
  • Conclusions or observations reached by the author
  • Conclusions or observations reached by you

Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical.  They may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.

The Process

Creating an annotated bibliography involves a concise background explanation, succinct analysis, and informed research.

The first step is to search and collect relevant citations of books, journal articles, and documents. These references should contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.  You should include references that both support and oppose your view point.

Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate citation style.  You could use APA 7th edition, AMA 10th edition, or MLA.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that evaluates the authority or background of the author, comments on the intended audience, compares or contrasts this work with another you have cited, or explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Adapted from Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, USA

Guidance on Annotated Bibliographies

Example Annotated Bibliographies